Continuing our In Conversation series we talk to dealer Matt Dixon, of TallBoy Interiors. Matt has been running his own business since the tender age of 20 and – despite opening a shop during the pandemic – has seen it go from strength to strength. We hear more about his great showroom in a Grade II listed chapel and his aspirations for the future.
Matt Dixon, TallBoy Interiors
ANF: Why and when did you setup TallBoy interiors?
MD: I set up TallBoy interiors just under seven years ago after a couple of years trading anything I could get my hands on when I left school after completing my A-Levels. I was getting a little bored of buying everything from hi-fi speakers to trading cards and knew I wanted to focus my attention on my passion for Interior design, so in April 2015 TallBoy Interiors was born.Towards the end of school, you were told that you needed to make the decision to go to university or enter the world of work. Thankfully, with the support of my family, I was given the confidence to enter the world of self employment. Risky decision for sure, but I learnt far more in my first year of business than in 4 years of business studies at school. Sorry Miss Laidlaw!Unbelievably, a simple carboot in York gave me a platform to build a small following which then introduced me to a large number of people (they know who they are) who influenced me and really gave me the first leg up in business. Without them I don’t know where I would be.
ANF: What is the best part of the job?
MD: Over the years the work required has changed massively, but my favourite part of the job is still the hunt! Searching through hundreds of items to find a handful of great quality pieces. I have been lucky enough to be invited to some fabulous properties to look at items which the owners no longer want, and have found some absolute treasures.
ANF: What advice would you give to any wannabe dealers?
MD: For me it is important to buy items you love, find a taste you like and are passionate about. It doesn’t have to just be one era. My style ranges from Georgian Chairs to Mid Century artwork, so it is extremely varied. It is good to mix and match as it means your interior can be totally unique to you.
ANF: How has the business developed over the years?
MD: In the last few years the biggest area I have moved into is antique seating, which I source from around the UK but predominantly in France. We work with a great upholstery team who transform these chairs from dated pieces to statement seating fit for any home. To ensure our clients are getting a piece of seating that will stand the test of time, we strip them back to the frame, tighten any movement, restore the legs where needed and re web the seat so that the springs offer enough support. We then opt to upholster each one in white calico with an exposed frame on the back, so that clients can see the quality of the piece and view it as a blank canvas. We can then upholster each piece in any fabric they wish.We do upholster seating for display within the showroom, but you can always guarantee someone will love the chair but not the fabric, that is why we decide to leave the majority of them prepped and let the customer decide what material is right for their space. We offer a range of materials for upholstery from a selection of great quality fabric houses who have designs that cover different areas so we will always have something that will work for you.
ANF: How do you source such great items?
MD: One of the biggest challenges dealers will always face is sourcing a constant supply of quality items. As already mentioned we have a great selection of places where we hunt for stock regularly, but in 2017 I took the plunge after admiring other dealers who went to the French Fairs to make my first visit and the experience didn’t disappoint. Variety, quality and quantity were what we were hoping for and thankfully that is exactly what we got.On my first few trips I was going over to the North of France and driving myself across; however, due to the size of my van, this was limiting me to how much stock I could bring back – I was finding I was leaving too many items behind because I didn’t have the space in the van. This is when I took another big step and started flying down to the South of France trade fairs, where I was fortunate enough to find AWL Shipping. The way it works now is the shippers bring all my items back that I purchase in France by road, it normally takes around 2 weeks for me to receive the items back. They go round all the fairs and shops in the surrounding towns to collect everything and also have a customs agent to get the pieces back into the UK easily. It has taken them a long time to learn all the new rules, but they do an amazing job and I couldn’t do what I do without them. It certainly isn’t the cheapest way to buy in France, but because of the amount I buy it certainly works best for me.
ANF: For our international readers, how do you manage shipping items globally?
MD: I work with a number of interior design companies who operate predominantly within America and I also have individual clients in the US. When we ship items to the USA it is usually by insured crated shipping, so it is recommended that clients make the most of a crate and buy multiple items to get the best result for covering the shipping costs. I have had very few problems with shipping internationally and by using trusted insured shippers, such as Convelio, should anything go wrong they will cover you and your client. Crating is a secure way of getting a small number of items across to their new homes, but should you want a larger number of pieces for projects, then shipping full or part containers is the way to go. One last thing to note is the shipment methods I use include customs clearance inadvance so you shouldn’t be charged anything extra and you won’t have the headache of getting your items into the country.
ANF: Do you have physical premises as well as an online presence?
MD: After an 18 month renovation with massive help from the landlord, in February 2020 we opened the doors to our first physical showroom situated in a Grade II listed chapel in the town of Malton, North Yorkshire. Needless to say it wasn’t ideal timing to open a new shop, but it has been a great addition. A lot of people are hesitant about buying online, so giving them a place where they can come and see the item in person has really boosted my clientele and for the first time in my business life I have local customers! The bustling market town of Malton is a great location and provides lots of support as it is a town based heavily around independent business. In May 2021 I took on a 4000sqft warehouse in addition to the showroom, so that I can focus on building my stock levels to boost online sales. It has made such a big difference to the day-to-day running of the business that I can’t even remember what life was like before it.
The TallBoy Interiors showroom in Malton, Yorkshire
ANF: What ambitions do you have for the business?
MD: Interior design is the area I would really like to push over the coming months. I have assisted a number of designers on different projects and source for interior designers regularly, but I am yet to take on a full project, something I hope will soon change. I realise it is hard when looking as a personal buyer to envisage the item within your home, and seeing how pieces can work together. This is where I can come in and help to put settings together that are unique to you. Hopefully there is more to come on this area of the business in the future.
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